Shrewd Dave Gettleman just gave himself a nice little side business. Coining the phrase “Fightin’ Joe Judges’’ could set up the 69-year-old general manager for a nice payday in the coming years.
Gettleman is not going anywhere just yet, though, and to cash in on any merchandising opportunity — T-shirts, hats, magnetic car decals — the Giants will have to live up to the colorful description their top football executive might as well patent.
“I just feel like the roster is gonna be competitive,’’ Gettleman said Wednesday in his first comments of training camp. “It’s gonna have the ability to win games. I’m not putting a number on it. Listen, you put a team out there, they’ll be the Fightin’ Joe Judges. I have no doubt. It’s gonna go well.’’
It needs to go well, for Gettleman more so than for Joe Judge. The Giants are in it for the long haul with Judge, their 38-year-old first-time head coach. Co-owner John Mara, admitting to past mistakes born out of losing and fan unrest, said when Judge was hired in January that the organization has to show more patience. Judge has a five-year contract and will be given a large chunk of that time to show he can, or cannot, get it done.
Gettleman is on a different timeline. He is not looking to work until he is kicked out. He is not looking to stay on the job well into his 70s. He was brought in to bring winning back to a broken franchise, a franchise living in past glory, undone by shoddy player evaluation, uninspired coaching and, in some areas, old-ways thinking.
Without Gettleman’s smarts as a pro personnel director, the Giants do not win Super Bowls after the 2007 and 2011 seasons. They are a long way from there. Gettleman is tasked with pointing the arrow back up, and in his two years the Giants are 5-11 and 4-12. He believes he found the successor to Eli Manning in Daniel Jones, is sure he chose a difference-maker in Saquon Barkley and is confident he added several young pillars in Dexter Lawrence, Will Hernandez, Andrew Thomas, Xavier McKinney, Jabrill Peppers, and maybe Darius Slayton, Oshane Ximines and Julian Love. He signed James Bradberry and dialed up a rarely used unrestricted free-agent tag to bring back Markus Golden. He adroitly waited until the price dropped to add Logan Ryan.
Gettleman took over and mistakenly suggested he could win while rebuilding. DeAndre Baker is expected to be released before the start of the season — a black eye for the team and especially Gettleman, who traded up to get him.
Weaning a team off a beloved icon is never easy; finding a legitimate replacement is even more difficult. Taking a shot on Jones with the No. 6 pick in the 2019 draft prompted a whole lot of scoffing and derision from outside the building. If Jones has the goods, Gettleman gets high marks, and that resonates with ownership. Getting it right on a quarterback is a big deal.
What does this all mean for Gettleman’s job security?
“That’s a question for them,’’ Gettleman said, referring to Mara and Steve Tisch.
Just because Judge is young and Gettleman is old does not mean the Giants are off-kilter. The plan is for Judge to outlast Gettleman — with Gettleman perhaps handing the job off to Kevin Abrams, the assistant general manager. Judge is a forceful presence. Gettleman realizes that. He was a bit subdued in his first media availability of the summer. Maybe shtick and Zoom don’t mix.
Judge got down and dirty after Tuesday’s practice in a slip-and-slide, mud-filled bit of jocularity that attracted — as of Wednesday afternoon — 1.5 million views on the team’s social media platforms, the most of any Giants video in the past year. The players loved it, as did the fans.
There was nothing resembling a smile, though, when Judge was told of Gettleman’s “Fightin’ Joe Judges’’ line.
“No, I’m more concerned they represent the area of New York and North Jersey a lot more than just Joe Judge,’’ Judge said.
“I appreciate the confidence, but I’m gonna come to work the same way either way.’’
Gettleman pointed out, “We’ve had three years of roster development,’’ and that, “I think we have brought in a number of players that are going to be part of this winning process.’’
The process needs to get going this season. The future of the Gettleman-Judge partnership is at stake.